Christmas is a magical time of the year and I love to entertain family and friends as much as possible during the holiday season. I love to cook special treats and I enjoy the non-stop parade of people through my door. For many years, we have hosted a big Christmas Eve dinner for my husband’s family and many friends. We all gather at our house after Christmas Eve service and celebrate.
When my children were younger this celebration included an impromptu reading and live production of the Christmas story. As my children and the cousins have gotten older, the “Instant Christmas Pageant” has become a thing of the past, but the celebration has remained.
Each year, Christmas Eve dinner is based around a theme. We have celebrated like the Germans, complete with homemade sauerkraut and mustard, pretzels and knockwurst. The costumes did not work well that year, as the temperature was about 85 degrees and had to run our air conditioner. Last year, we had a Greek theme, and I am still dreaming about the homemade baklava that a cousin brought.
While the Christmas Eve menu changes every year, our Christmas Day meal is a little more traditional and we serve mostly family favorites.
I am not sure why oysters are a traditional holiday addition to the table, but I love oysters and am happy to serve them anytime. This super easy version of seafood bisque is a fantastic way to highlight shrimp and oysters. Please make it a day or two ahead and gently reheat before serving.
In a medium size stock pot, melt one stick of butter. Add 2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper, 3 tablespoons chopped celery, and 3 tablespoons chopped green onion, including the tops. Stir for about 1 minute. Add 1-2 cloves of chopped, minced, fresh, garlic. Simmer for about 2 more minutes.
Once vegetables have softened, add 1/2 pound small peeled shrimp. Cook over low heat until the shrimp turn pink, about two minutes. Add one can cream of shrimp soup, 1 - 13 ounce can of evaporated milk, and 1/2 cup of regular milk. Slowly bring soup to a slight simmer. Add 1 pint of raw oysters, drained. If oysters are large, use scissors to cut them into small pieces. Stir and turn off heat. Season with salt, pepper, and dried Italian season. Serve hot with a splash of sherry, if desired.
While I have seen many southern cornbread dressing recipes include oysters, this recipe for oyster dressing is my grandmothers and she used crackers.
Holiday Scalloped Oysters
2 pints fresh oysters
About 4 sleeves of regular crackers
1 ½ sticks butter
1 pint half and half
1 or 2 fresh lemons
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, lemon pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce.
To assemble oysters:
Coat a medium-sized casserole dish with non-stick spray. Crush crackers and dredge each oyster, leaving as much oyster liquor on oysters, as possible. Dredge each oyster in the crackers until it is heavily coated. Make a single layer of oysters in the bottom of the casserole dish. Drizzle about half of butter over the first layer of oysters. Season heavily with salt, pepper, lemon pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Make another layer of cracker coated oysters, and repeat process with butter and seasonings. Top with remaining crushed crackers. Fill the dish about 3/4 full with half-and-half. Allow to sit for a few minutes and then bake at 350° for one hour or until firm.
The main dish for Christmas needs to be a “show stopper” and this recipe for Pork Wellington fits the bill. We have made it for Christmas dinner, several dinner parties, and supper club. I even made it for my brother and his college friends. I prepped it in Jackson and packed it in a cooler all the way to Dallas. It is perfect for Christmas lunch or dinner because almost all the prep work is done the day before. On Christmas day, just relax because all you have to do is bake it.
Pork Wellington with Apple Sage Sauce
2 Pork Tenderloins about 8 ozs. each
4 oz. Boursin style cheese (homemade cheese recipe to follow)
About 8 thin slices of prosciutto
2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 T. Water
Trim pork tenderloins of silver skin and any connective tissues, then butterfly tenderloins open by slicing through the center of each about 2/3 of the way through. Do not cut all the way through. Spread open the tenderloin and stuff with half of Boursin cheese. On a cutting board, spread out 4 slices of prosciutto overlapping the edges. Roll stuffed tenderloin in prosciutto. Set aside and repeat all steps for the second tenderloin. Once both tenderloins are wrapped in prosciutto, sear on all sides in a hot skillet until prosciutto is browned and crisped. Wrap Tenderloins and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight. Once meat is chilled, unfold puff pastry and roll into a rectangle large enough to wrap the pork. Trim pastry as necessary. At this point cover pork and chill for 1 hour or up to 24 hours. When ready to cook, brush Wellingtons with egg mixture and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, slice and top with Apple-Sage sauce.
Sauté 1 T. tomato paste and 1 T. butter for about 2- 3 minutes, deglaze pan with ¼ cup apple juice, 1 t. dried onion flakes, and ¼ cup white wine. Allow to simmer. Add in 3 cups beef broth. Simmer 10 minutes. Add in a mixture of 2T. cold water mixed with 2 T. corn starch to thicken the gravy.
See Lisa Ireland, Page 15C
Once, thickened, whisk in 1 T. butter, 2-3 T. apple jelly and 2 t. minced fresh sage. Serve warm.
Mrs. Barber’s Boursin Style Cheese
Cream 2 blocks softened cream cheese with 2 sticks softened butter. Add in 2 cloves minced fresh garlic and 1 T. Herbs de Provence. Chill until ready to use.
With so many flavors, a simple salad and some steamed asparagus is all you need to round out your meal. The vinaigrette is great on both salad and vegetables.
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, about 1-2 lemons
1 t honey
1 small shallot or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
½ t kosher salt
¼ t freshly ground black pepper
(Optional: 1 t Dijon mustard, or any fresh herbs)
Mix lemon juice, honey, and shallot or garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add Dijon or herbs for a slightly new flavor.
I grew up with many large pecan trees around our yard. My dad would get us to pick up pecans every fall and I can remember him sitting in front of the television watching college football and shelling out pecans. Since I have gotten older, I do not take the time to sit and shell my own pecans, but I can still taste the ones from our farm. They were the little small ones that were almost sweet. We always had a pecan pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert with the fresh pecans. The best!
1 refrigerator pie crust or one homemade pie crust
2 whole eggs
¼ t salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
2 T butter, melted
1 cup pecans, slightly chopped
Beat eggs with salt until foamy. Beat in remaining ingredients. Line pie plate with pie crust (do not pierce with fork). Pour over mixture and bake at 350 degree for about 1 hour or until firm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.